While many countries today would envy a 7.4 percent economic expansion rate, for China — the world’s second largest economy and the United States’ second largest trading partner — that number suggests the lowest economic growth rate in 13 years.
Even if an American business does not deal directly with exports and imports from China, they want to know how the current state of China’s economy will impact them because China has become an integral part of business logistics throughout the U.S.
In short, it is nearly impossible to find a business that can function independently of Chinese influence.
China’s manufacturing sector consists of numerous industries that are engaged in the physical transformation of raw materials into consumer or industrial goods. Raw materials and labor come cheap in China, so for many multinational corporations, it is highly efficient and cost-effective to keep manufacturing production overseas.
For example, American corporations like Nike and Apple manufacture several of their products in China and then export to the United States and elsewhere.
However, in 2012, China’s manufacturing sector took a hard hit due to a global slowdown in demand. Nevertheless, in May, China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index stood at 49.2. Although this is a slight decrease from January’s 50.6 PMI, analysts still see this as an indication the manufacturing industry in China is on the rebound.
While this suggests that China’s economy is excelling, it also suggests the same of the United States. An increase in demand for production of consumer goods abroad also suggests an increase in consumer activity stateside.
Similar to the manufacturing PMI, the non-manufacturing PMI inched to 56.2 in January, indicating a .1 increase over the December 2012 PMI.
In May, however, the PMI fell to 54.3. Nevertheless, it is important to note that much of China’s expansion from November to January was due to the Chinese government’s increased spending on infrastructure products such as road and railroad construction.
Moreover, China’s residential property market has also experienced moderate growth in the past year, while the demand for commercial property has declined. Nonetheless, many analysts foresee both industries continuing to enjoy moderate growth in 2013.
This should not come as a surprise as China’s services and construction sectors account for 43 percent of the country’s economy.
In January, the Chinese government released economic data that indicated China’s retail sales increased by 14.9 percent during November 2012 — the highest increase over the previous eight months.
Foreign-based retailers of luxury goods such as Louis Vuitton and Coach have established thriving businesses in China. In turn, retail success in China allows investments from American corporate retailers to come full circle, giving their shareholders enviable profit-sharing opportunities largely unseen in other markets.
Nonetheless, there are mixed reviews from foreign retailers that have established stores in China. For example, in September 2012, Nike said that its China sales were weakening and had decreased six percent from the prior year.
Also in September 2012, Home Depot announced that it would be closing all its stores in China. But Coach, an American luxury retailer specializing in shoes and handbags, continued to do well in China — so well that China is set to become its top market within the next three year
Given China’s slowing economic expansion, the government has accelerated investment project approvals, trimmed fees for exporters, and increased spending on infrastructure. For the United States, this translates into economic opportunity and advancement in profit growth. Even with a hiccup in production activity, economists continue to encourage businesses and individuals alike to invest in China.
Paola Sanchez Torres and Xingjian Zhao are associate attorneys for Diaz Reus & Targ, LLP. Sanchez Torres is in the firm’s Bogota, Colombia, office, and Xingjian Zhao, the Shanghai, China office.